Sure, it’s easy now to see the boys of Portland High, seeded third in the Class A South soccer tournament, as capable of making another run to the state championship game. That’s what happened last fall to the Bulldogs, then seeded fourth in their region, as they extended Lewiston to overtime in the Class A title game before falling, 1-0.

But lift one page from the calendar and take a look at Portland as September came to a close. After dropping a 2-0 decision to Sanford, the Bulldogs were 2-3-3 and facing the possibility of missing out altogether on playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

“We weren’t really as a team, as a whole, at the beginning,” said senior Sam Nkurunziza. “That slowly came together.”

Head coach Rocco Frenzilli and assistant Joe Giordano gathered the team after a practice session at the Fox Street field in Kennedy Park and laid out the situation. They asked for feedback. There was good give and take.

“Let’s make it an October of opportunity,” Frenzilli said.

Nkurunziza, who had been playing forward and midfield, moved to the back line, which was entirely new except for senior Tyler Lemay. Junior midfielder Alex Millones shifted to a defensive midfield position, inverting what had been a midfield triangle weighted toward the back end, and allowing sophomore Gracien Mukwa and junior Eric Mukwa to play a more aggressive, offensive-minded midfield.

“He’s a very heady soccer player,” Frenzilli said of Millones. “As long as he keeps us moving forward and keeps our shape and keeps our spacing the way it’s supposed to be, we’ve been playing very well with that.”

So well that the Bulldogs are unbeaten in October, riding a six-game winning streak at 8-3-3 as they prepare for a Tuesday afternoon quarterfinal match against No. 6 Kennebunk (8-6-1) at Fitzpatrick Stadium. The Rams beat No. 11 Windham 2-0 in a preliminary match Friday. This will be their second visit to Fitzpatrick, having beaten Portland 3-1 on Sept. 4.

Tuesday’s winner advances to the regional semifinals against either No. 2 Falmouth (11-2-1) or No. 7 Marshwood (9-4-2). The Bulldogs managed a scoreless tie with Falmouth in September and kicked off their October run with a 5-4 overtime victory against Marshwood in South Berwick.

In the five games since beating Marshwood, Portland’s defense has yielded only three goals, never more than one in any game. In their first five games this season, the Bulldogs gave up nine goals.

“We kind of struggled because not many of us had played with each other before, so we couldn’t communicate as well as previous years,” said Lemay, the lone defensive holdover. “After we lost and tied a bit we talked it out and we’ve gotten a lot better with each other, a lot more comfortable. Now we believe in each other, we trust each other and we work hard for everyone.”

Portland employs two forward lines that switch out every 10 minutes to keep everyone fresh. Sophomore Anselmo Tela (nine goals), senior Keto Tchiputo (eight goals, nine assists) and junior Tahn Tiparos start out the game and are relieved by senior Pedro Fonseca (eight assists), sophomore Mwandja Kaluta (four goals) and Cristo Vumpa (a freshman who also serves as placekicker on the Portland High football team).

Tchiputo is a transfer from Deering High who grew up playing street-ball soccer in Angola.

“In the beginning of the season, there’s new people and we didn’t know each other,” Tchiputo said. “Now I know if I pass the ball to my partner, he’s going to do something right.”

“I didn’t doubt my teammates,” said Fonseca, a captain along with Nkurunziza, Millones and Lemay, “but I had a feeling that, ‘Damn, this might be the year that we’re not going to be able to make it that far.’ But once October came and the pieces started to work together, there was more chemistry building up and our teammates began to trust each other.”

They still remember September, but having made the most of their opportunity in October, the Bulldogs have earned the right to consider the possibility of another match in November. In four appearances in the Class A final, they’ve never won a state championship in boys’ soccer. This year’s game is scheduled for Nov. 3 in Bath.

“We still have things to work on,” Fonseca said, “but I feel really confident about our team.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH